Psalm 116 is one of the Psalms that Jesus will sing during the last supper with His disciples before His crucifixion. The psalmist says, “The pains of death surrounded me, and the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the Lord: ‘O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!’ … For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. I believed, therefore I spoke, ‘I am greatly afflicted.’ … I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord now in the presence of all His people. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:3-15).
The wine that the disciples will drink with Jesus during the last supper is symbolic for the work of salvation that Jesus will finish on the cross when he pours out His blood for us, creating a new covenant between the Lord and His people (Matthew 26:27-30). Under the new covenant, we are no longer under the Law and sacrificial system which serves its purpose in the Old Testament. We are now saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ will live a life in perfect obedience to the Law for us and die as the final atoning sacrifice for our sins. Anyone who trusts in Jesus will receive the free gift of salvation. Therefore the psalmist can say, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” because when the saints, those who trust in Christ, die they immediately ascend to heaven with their Lord and Savior for eternity.
In Psalm 118 the psalmist says, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:22-24). The cornerstone is the primary stone placed at the corner of a building’s foundation. In our June 28th reading, Isaiah prophesied of the coming Messiah by referring to Him as the Cornerstone -”Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily’” (Isaiah 28:16).
After Jesus is crucified and raised from the dead, He will reunite with his disciple Peter and Peter will declare – “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). Then Jesus will call Himself the Cornerstone, the foundation for those who put their faith and trust in Him, and tell Peter that the church will be built on the proclamation of Jesus Christ as Savior – “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
Then after Jesus’s ascension to heaven, when John and Peter are standing before the Jewish Council, Peter will rebuke the Jewish leaders by saying, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12). And Paul will explain to new believers that Jesus is the cornerstone of the church – ”So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
The only way to salvation and to be a part of the church is by confessing and believing that Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone, is your Savior – ”because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10).